Boys Basketball opens season with win at Carlisle

Article by Bill Landis, The Sentinel/Photographs by Michael Bupp, The Sentinel

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Friday night’s second game of the Carlisle Classic started off looking like it should have with a pair of teams in Carlisle and Mechanicsburg trying to figure out just exactly what each had in the first game of the season.

Through the first six minutes of the first quarter, the two teams combined for just seven points and struggled to find any sort of offense.

Mechanicsburg eventually found its stride toward the end of the first and never looked back, beating Carlisle, 61-44, on the Thundering Herd’s home floor.

The game got out of Carlisle’s hands in the second quarter. Mechanicsburg (1-0) outscored Carlisle (0-1), 22-10, in the second frame and built a lead that the Herd could never fight back from.

Coming into the game, there was concern that Mechanicsburg wasn’t going to be able to match up athletically with Carlisle, but the Wildcats’ guards made it clear that they weren’t going to back down.

“My guards are more athletic than people give us credit for,” Mechanicsburg coach Bob Strickler said. “We were able to exploit some matchups.”

The Wildcats’ game plan was to keep moving the basketball and force the Carlisle defense to rotate with them. Carlisle abided and that’s when the Wildcats were able to slash to the lane and take advantage of some openings. When the play didn’t end in a made basket, the Wildcats made sure that the attempts ended in a trip to the free throw line by going up strong to the basket.

Mechanicsburg got to the foul line 31 times Friday night, completing 24 of those attempts and making it nearly impossible for Carlisle to ever climb back in the game.

The trips to the line help pad the stats of some of the Mechanicsburg players as eight different players made it to the line and all had at least one make. Sophomore forward Zach Brunner led all scorers with 14 points with six of those coming from the charity stripe.

With Mechanicsburg playing a sound fundamental game by making its free throws and limiting its turnovers, Carlisle was forced to get out of its game in an attempt to make the comeback. The Herd came into this season wanting to run on teams and make up for their inexeprience by utilizing their speed.

The lead that Mechanicsburg built wouldn’t allow that and the Herd were forced to settle for some outside jump shots.

“We knew we had to keep (Carlisle) perimeter-based,” Strickler said. “With their athleticsim, we weren’t gonna rebound if they missed. They settled for some jumpers to get back in the game and that allowed us to get on a nice little run.”

Carlisle looked uncomfotable for the majority of the game and was carless with the basketball at times. Mechanicsburg did a nice job of playing pressure defense without fouling the Herd shooters.

Carlisle got to the free throw line just 14 times and only connected on five of those attempts.

While Carlisle looked uncomfortable, Mechanicsburg settled down as the game went along. Like Carlisle, Mechanicsburg is also a team trying to figure out just exactly what it has at this point. Junior forward John Thompson led the way for Mechanicsburg by fearlessly taking the ball to the basket and junior guard Collin Farnham did the same as the two combined for 24 points and a 6 for 11 night from the free throw line.

The Wildcats had nine different players make the scoring sheet, including junior guard Sheldon Deimler, who hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half, on his only shot attempt of the game, after some nice ball rotation and a pump fake by Deimler to get the open shot away.

“I was proud of my guys tonight,” Strickler said. “We didn’t turn the ball over. When you get those first-game jitters you just have to relax. The team that controlled thier emotions the best tonight was gonna be victorious and we did a good job of that.”

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